Jolicloud May Beat Chrome OS to Netbook Market

Google's Chrome OS may be ultimately intended to run on cloud-focused netbooks when it comes out, but as of yesterday it looks like a small, startup competitor could beat the search giant to the proverbial punch.

Paris-based Jolicloud, which makes its own cloud-focused operating system based on Linux, has confirmed that it plans to release a netbook computer of its own this month in the U.K. using that open source operating system, according to a report on TechCrunch. Dubbed the "Jolibook", the forthcoming netbook will run version 1.1 of the Jolicloud OS, which is based on Ubuntu.

The device will come preloaded with Facebook, Spotify, VLC, Skype and--interestingly--Chromium. Based on a dual-core Atom N550 processor, it will also sport a 250GB hard drive, a "gorgeous" screen and an "affordable" (though as yet unspecified) price, according to reports.

Other notable details to emerge so far include the fact that the device is HTML5-based, will include a VGA port and multiple USB ports, and that it will be able to play 720p video, according to TechCrunch. There's no mention of the Jolibook on Jolicloud's site yet, but photos of the new machine are available on Flickr.

Ubuntu 10.04

Though the current release of Jolicloud is version 1.0, the forthcoming 1.1 upgrade will resynchronize the software's back-end operating system with Ubuntu 10.04, or Lucid Lynx, which is the most current Long-Term Support (LTS) version of Canonical's Linux distribution.

The cloud-focused operating system's front end, meanwhile, leverages HTML5 technologies on top of the Chromium browser. With support for "exotic" components including Nvidia ION, Intel Poulsbo and touch-screens--and by enhancing support for the latest CPU hardware--Jolicloud aims to make version 1.1 of its namesake operating system an excellent choice for all types of computers, not just netbooks, it says.

GNOME and X11

Other components of Jolicloud 1.1 will include version 2.6.35.4 of the Linux kernel; X11R7.5; GNOME, Nautilus, and Metacity 2.30; and the Plymouth boot-up theme. Chromium 7.0, VLC 1.1.4, Dropbox 0.6.3, Abiword 2.8.2, Banshee 1.6.1, Firefox 3.6.10, Gimp 2.6.8, Miro 3.0.1 and OpenOffice.org 3.2.1 are also planned for inclusion.

For now, Jolicloud 1.0 can be downloaded for free from the company's site.

Given the rise of Android--and, indeed, tablets--it's net yet clear what role cloud-focused netbooks may play for either businesses or consumers, or how Google's Chrome OS will fit in. Still, it's exciting to see another Linux-based contender potentially beating Google at its own declared game. If nothing else, Jolicloud is definitely one to watch.

Follow Katherine Noyes on Twitter: @Noyesk.

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